I’ve been married for 6 months now. My girlfriend (now wife) checked on my phone a couple of times when we were dating and saw conversations between me and some other ladies I was talking to behind her back. She didn’t like what she saw. There were also a couple of times this happened after we were married. Since then, she’s not trusted me and keeps checking my phone. She’s not comfortable with my female contacts at all. Even when I’m on the phone doing something else, she gets suspicious. This has greatly affected our marriage. Please share any suggestions.
The first thing you can do to help you wife heal is to stop having inappropriate and personal conversations with other women behind her back. If you continue to have these conversations, you are acting like a single guy and aren’t really interested in a committed relationship. Are you ready to turn fully and completely to your wife so you can build a secure marriage with her?
If you want to do the difficult work of restoring trust with your wife, then you need to make sure you have ended every other relationship so these don’t become the place you run when things get difficult with your marriage. Rebuilding trust can be a lonely experience for you as you wait for your wife to feel safe with you again. You will need to be prepared for times of uncertainty while you wait for her to put her life back in your hands. If you are keeping the line open to willing and available female friends who will take your side, soothe your pain, and comfort you, then you will never repair the broken bond between you and your wife.
Don’t call your inappropriate female contacts and have one final conversation you can have some closure. If you do that, you’re caring more about their comfort than you do about your wife’s comfort and safety. Take their numbers out of your phone and cut off all contact. This will show your wife how serious you are about turning to her and rebuilding trust.
The next thing you need to do is give your wife permission to be untrusting and suspicious. You have lied to her, hidden information from her, and deceived her. She has every right to not believe you. If you become defensive and expect her to trust you just because you said you are trustworthy isn’t only unfair, it’s cruel. Your defensiveness will make her feel crazy because there is a part of her that wants to trust you, but there is another part of her that can’t trust you.
You can give her permission by saying things like, “you have every right to be worried about whom I’m talking to.” You can also give her all passwords to your phone, email accounts, and any other devices you’ve used to deceive her. Do everything you can to reassure her that you will be as transparent as possible so she doesn’t have to worry about your faithfulness. Trust is earned. It’s not something you’re entitled to just because you’re married.
Do everything you can to help her feel secure. Go out of your way to let her know where you’ll be, when you’ll return, and who you talk to during the day. This may seem controlling on her part, but you have to understand why she’s acting this way. You controlled her reality by keeping her in the dark. Now, she’s trying to figure out what’s really true. Do everything you can to let her see your reality. This sets up conditions where she’s better able to heal and begin trusting again. Any form of defensiveness or hiding on your part will derail the delicate trust-building process.
I think it goes without saying that you’ll want to counsel with your priesthood leaders about your behavior. The fact that you’ve only been married six months and continue to have inappropriate conversations with other women is a significant concern that needs attention immediately. Meeting with a leader will establish a base of personal accountability to God and your marriage. Invite your wife to seek support from your bishop as well. Show her that you’re willing to be completely accountable and open with your church leaders.
Recognize that healing from these behaviors and rebuilding trust in a damaged relationship takes time. Elder David A. Bednar taught “that the extent and intensity of your repentance must match the nature and severity of your sins—especially for Latter-day Saints who are under sacred covenant.” He described sexual sin as a “serious spiritual wound” that “require[s] sustained treatment and time to heal completely and fully.”[i]
Don’t minimize the seriousness of your behaviors. Even though you may not have physically touched these other women, the fact that you turned to them in secret and had inappropriate conversations with them is enough to deeply wound the fragile bond you’re beginning to form in your new marriage. Do everything you can to repair and reinforce your marriage so you can build a solid foundation that will sustain your marriage forever.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at email@example.com
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.